Gods Justice

Many people are apathetic about injustice issues because they have lost hope that things can change. They have become disillusioned with social and political theories and political agendas for change, and rightly so. Our message is it’s only in a relationship with God that our ’speaking’ on behalf of the poor can be effective.

God’s love for the poor and passion for justice spills over throughout the pages of the Bible. God’s desire is to bring the cause of the oppressed and the vulnerable before the people and before rulers. This is evident in many descriptions of what God is like. ‘He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing’.Deuteronomy 10:17-19

God also describes defending the cause of the poor and the oppressed as being part of what it means to know him. ‘He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. “Is that not what it means to know me?” declares the LORD’. Jeremiah 22:16,

Being close to God means hearing his heart beat for the poor and those without hope.

In the Old Testament the prophets often denounced practices and patterns of behaviour which were found to be exploitative – see for example Amos 5: 11 – 12 and Isaiah 58: 6 – 8. Amos described working for justice as being the kind of worship that God desires and Isaiah described it as being the kind of fasting God desires. It was seen to be a spiritual activity.

In the New Testament Jesus criticised the Pharisees and called them hypocrites for fastidious tithing whilst failing to apply the deeper underlying principles of justice and fairness. To actively seek these demands a great deal of thought, commitment, self-sacrifice, and love and is more important than the important giving of our financial resources to charity.

‘Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practised the latter without leaving the former undone (Luke 11:42).

Issues on justice, relating to the gospel’s message, form part of a right relationship with God, and with each other as part of bringing in God’s Kingdom. It is difficult to say that we are in a right relationship with our global family if we are wearing clothes, and eating foods, that may be made or harvested in exploitative conditions. Being in this wrong relationship with others also damages our relationship with God, because sin is not only about our own personal sins but also about the sin that our society commits as a whole.

We want to encourage everyone to respond to injustice. We want to see our church called into a lifestyle of serving the poor. We want people to realise what an impact they can make to injustice globally by campaigning on the larger issues, but starting from home. We want to see people realising that it is about a lifestyle of discipleship and concern for the poor. It is documented that all over Africa young people are turning to Islam because they don’t see Christianity as having anything to say about the injustices they are suffering. We want to see the church expressing God’s love in such a radical way that we all speak the gospel and at the same time demonstrate its effects by our evident concern about injustice.

In Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger: Moving from Affluence to Generosity by Ronald J. Sider, he tells a story that emphasises why we need to campaign. An Indian bishop once told him.

“A mental institution in his country had a fascinating way of deciding whether patients were well enough to go home. They would take a person over to a water tap, place a bucket under the tap, and fill the bucket with water. Then, leaving the tap on, they would give the person a spoon and say, “Please empty the bucket.” If the person started dipping the water out one spoonful at a time and never turned the tap off, they knew he or she was still crazy!” He goes on to say, “Too often Christians, like the Indian mental patient, work at social problems one spoonful at a time

We work at correcting the symptoms, which is vital work, but we never do anything to turn off the tap such as change legal systems and economic policies that hurt people. These include things like unfair debt and trade relationships. These unfair relationships put the poor into unfair, permanently disadvantaged positions and when they find themselves in permanently unjust lifestyles it is hard for them to break out of the situation. Often the resources nations are generating are not helping the poor. For example in some nations they are paying back £9 in debt repayments for every £1 they are given in aid. We need to campaign and pray to bring a transformation to these unfair practices that are in place.

We may not be able to change everyone’s world everywhere but we can change someone’s world somewhere. Each policy that we change, or each decision we effect is important in terms of the way it impacts on the lives of others.

“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land2 Chronicles 7:14

This covers our realisation of the injustice in our world and our part in it, and our corporate responsibility for it. But it leads us towards the promise that God will not only hear our prayers but will forgive us our part in injustice and finally, God promises to actually change our world if we come to him in prayer. It will not be permanently and perfectly changed until Jesus comes again, but until then it is our privilege and responsibility not to throw up our hands in despair at the injustice in our world but to be used by God to touch our world – all of our world – with His love.

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